That Real Madrid side boasted the Napoleon of football, Raymond Kopa, the 'Saeta Rubia' Alfredo Di Stefano, and Francisco Gento. Just hearing such names makes you come out in goosebumps. But, Cesare Maldini, Nils Liedholm and Juan Alberto Schiaffino pulled their sleeves up and got to work. In the European Cup final on 28 May 1958, they didn’t want to kick off the match feeling they were already beaten against the legendary Real Madrid side. It was the first time that AC Milan were playing in a European Cup final and the side had a real desire to be there and the Rossoneri were 2-1 up after 78 minutes. A great performance but there was still a long way to go.
After, Rial equalised before Gento made it 3-2 in extra time. Milan left defeated but with heads held high as the newspapers said the following day although Gastone Nencini's win in an important stage of the Giro d'Italia was higher up the news agenda. Times were different back then, interests and priorities weren't what they are today. At the Heysel Stadium, there were no nets separating the crowd from the pitch. Behind the stadium was the Atomium Monument made from stainless steel that represents nine atoms brought together to form a single structure in reference to the science of the atom and its applications by humanity.
The 1958 European Cup final was played in Brussels in conjunction with activities taking place for the 1958 Expo, the first one after the Second World War. After the final, the side left a day later from Brussels to return to Milan. 880 kilometres separate the capital of Belgium from Milan and it’s worth repeating that it really wasn't like the football of today. A true Milan symbol, Cesare Maldini had joined the Club four years prior in 1954. In the post-war period, he certainly wasn't expecting the luxurious villa that was offered to him by the Club. After moving to Milan from Trieste, Cesarone rented a room in an apartment on Viale Monza which was owned by a kind, elderly local woman.
In 1958, following the final against Alfredo Di Stefano's Real Madrid side, there were problems in paying for the train tickets on the way back from Brussels to Milan. With 600 kilometres left to go, the Rossoneri had got off at Metz, a few kilometres on from the Luxembourg border. A friendly was organised between the local side and the European runners-up which would cover the costs of the trip back with a small profit for the Club.
The game finished 5-0 for Milan. Giancarlo Pantera Danova was one of the best performers against the French side, scoring two goals and providing an assist for Cucchiaroni. In that match, Cesare Maldini broke a cheekbone after going up for an aerial challenge against 24-year-old Cannes-born centre-forward Gerard Moresco who was making his Metz debut. The Milan legend was clearly always fully committed, even in simple friendlies. What a time in football history, truly unique and irreplaceable.
by Mauro Suma